Today I noticed how when the baby does his best Velcro impersonation, he lays his head on my chest and pops his left thumb in his mouth. Every time.
I tuck my cheek to the top of his head, try to determine if his hair is starting to curl more than it did the day before. With any luck, he’ll have the same springy curls his brother did as a toddler. I breathe in his smell. He smells like nothing and everything, and it is my favorite smell. I would bottle it if I could. I would collect the smell from the baby blanket my oldest carries around and the smell from the top of my youngest’s head and keep them in tiny glass jars on the top of my dresser, neatly labeled. If I could. Because to be a mother is to know there will be a day I need the jars.
I wonder if, when the baby lays his head of my chest, he is searching out my heartbeat. I wonder if he is remembering the 280 days he spent tucked inside me, cozy in my ribcage, with the drum of my heart and the whoosh of his water bed.
My oldest gets choked up when we talk about the first time he saw his brother, or if I remind him he was once in my tummy the same way he remembers his brother being. It’s sweet, and a nice antidote to the proclamations of “mommy, you’re MEAN!” that he tosses around now that he’s four-going-on-five. I think he remembers my heartbeat, and being one person, in a way he might never have the words for.
The baby is 10 months old now. He’s been out longer than he was in. His world is big. He can sit himself up and army crawl to wherever he wants to go. He can play peekaboo and wrestle with his brother. He can say “all done,” “night-night,” and “dada.” This small vocabulary covers a lot of ground, especially when he says “all done night-night,” to convey that he is done taking a nap, thanks but no thanks.
He can also protest loudly and fervently when he wants to be in my arms and isn’t. Which is, for the past couple of weeks, all the time. I could say there is no greater honor than being someone’s entire world, but let’s be honest, it’s mostly just really exhausting. Didn’t we already do this part, the part where we were one person?
I might be a sucker or maybe my soul can sense that these days are fleeting, no matter how interminable they currently feel. Every day I get a little bit closer to actually needing those tiny glass jars on my dresser. Some days this feels okay, preferential even. I could write a book! I could take a trip! I could not get woken up at 5 am! I could not get yelled at for suggesting someone finish their breakfast! Other days I can already feel the dull ache, deep in my core, the place that once held them.
So when the baby screams again, his face quickly shading to strawberry or tomato, I pick him up, and settle him on my hip. He lays his head on my chest and pops his thumb in his mouth. I take a deep breath in.
To write is to be in conversation with yourself, to preserve a state of being so you can conclude a sequence of thinking and feeling. The enemy to this process is intrusion. Children, in all of their beauty and wildness and strange genius, are, in the way of a meteorite, an intrusion.
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